Premium Beauty News - On March 29, you highlighted the dangers of "announcements" regarding alternative materials to plastic. Why this warning?
Denis Paccaud - It is essential to be vigilant so that the cure is not worse than the disease. I believe it is important to maintain a certain level of objectivity concerning the alternatives proposed. Indeed, they can provide some answers and improve some of the negative aspects of plastic, but not systematically. I am referring, for example, to cellulose derivatives: their properties are very interesting in terms of eco-responsibility and recyclability, but on the other hand, they are sensitive to water-based liquids or fatty liquids, such as oils. They can therefore rarely be in contact with the formula itself. This means that it is often necessary to insert a plastic film between the formula and the packaging to limit unwanted exchanges between the two materials. Another example is that some biobased materials have their biodegradability or recyclability reduced or even cancelled out after undergoing chemical transformation. Even if they were initially made from natural materials.
Premium Beauty News - On your side, what alternative materials are you exploring?
Denis Paccaud - Texen’s Innovation Department has several areas of focus, in the medium and long term, but also in the short term, particularly with a view to pre-qualifying materials proposed by manufacturers.
Regarding the medium and long term, we are mainly working on recycled and biosourced plastic polymers, because it is the most abundant material today. It is in our interest to select the most relevant recycled materials, identify their specificities and how to use them and, of course, reuse them. Of course, recycling channels are still needed, but this matter is moving forward. T.E.O (Transition Ecologique Observatoire) has just announced the forthcoming opening of a new recycling channel for polystyrene.
We are also focusing on materials that will be recycled in the near future and of course biobased and biodegradable materials - such as PLA and PHA - although today there is still a very mixed acceptance regarding these materials. At Texen, we only propose a few of them to our customers. Our ambition is to fully master them and minimise all the risks related to the use of these "new" materials before integrating them into our catalogue and production lines. Another area we are working on is our ability to separate the different packaging materials and components and to thoroughly focus on the design of single-material solutions.
Denis Paccaud - Manufacturers now have a perfect command of how to produce plastic materials and transform them. But the industry has not yet reached maturity concerning the recycling chain and must continue to innovate and optimise the processes for the collection, sorting and recycling of materials. The climate crisis and the growing awareness of our customers are driving us to take into account new parameters in the development of products, particularly to facilitate their recycling. We are in the midst of a real transition process, also driven by regulations with the 2025 and 2030 deadlines.
Today in France, 30% of the plastic that can be recycled - mainly PET - is actually recycled. What’s more, mechanical recycling is showing its limits, especially for cosmetic uses requiring "food grade" certification. This is why the industry is looking for other techniques such as chemical recycling, which is certainly more energy consuming, but offers more possibilities, or enzymatic recycling - which seems to be proving its worth for the moment on some materials and is less energy consuming.
Premium Beauty News - Refills are often presented as the most efficient solution to reduce packaging. Texen has been involved in the manufacturing of refills for Stella McCartney’s brand. What is your take on this?
Denis Paccaud - With the example of the Stella McCartney brand products, you are highlighting one of the most successful solutions in terms of refillable products. Indeed, in this case, the plastic of the refill is minimised while use cases are maximised. The refill can be used alone or in its pump bottle. And it is fully recyclable as it is made of a single-material film with no aluminium. The carbon footprint and the use assessment of these products are really interesting.
There are other solutions, less advanced but just as interesting, which involve rigid plastic refills and whose carbon footprint remains largely positive. However, we must make sure that the refill does not devalue the product’s image and that the refill process is not a chore but a pleasant gesture. Our mission is, on the one hand, to provide the user with a comfortable and even fun way of refilling and, on the other, to offer refillable products with a longer life span, so as not to tire or disappoint the consumer. This is a real challenge.
So yes, refillable products can be a solution for reducing packaging. It is of interest to our customers, mainly luxury or premium brands because one of its limits is obviously its cost.
Premium Beauty News - New textures are emerging today (solids, anhydrous, powders), with new issues in terms of packaging. What is the state of innovation on this subject?
Denis Paccaud - We are questioning our clients about these new formulations and have launched brainstorming sessions and concept studies. There is certainly a way forward for powders, which need to be "watered down" to be used. In addition, you must make sure that the mixture is well-dosed and homogeneous, otherwise, the preparation will be too liquid or too thick. A routine that in my opinion requires a container specifically designed for a simple and quick preparation gesture at the risk of losing the consumer.